Gedale Fenster, a Miami-based entrepreneur and motivational speaker, is the founder and CEO of the People’s Insurance Claim Center and Evolutions Treatment Center. He has also established the Breslov Center, where he teaches. He hosts a series of weekly online lectures on Facebook Live on Wednesday evenings. Fenster spoke at Chabad Flamingo in Thornhill, Ont., on Aug. 15.
How would you describe the spiritual work you do?
I’m trying to bring the connection between the old hasidut and modern-age psychology. And once we have that blend, then we can realize that modern psychology is only coming from that. Psychologists know how to reword it and they know how to sell it in a different way, but the source of modern psychology is coming from hasidut and Reb Nachman’s teachings of the Baal Shem Tov (which started the Hasidic movement 300 years ago).
What is hasidut?
The Baal Shem Tov was able to bring very, very lofty high ideas from Kabbalah to the practical person. The Baal Shem Tov brought this new light and that’s where Chabad comes from. That’s where Breslov comes from. That’s where all the hasidut comes from.
You say that talking directly to God is a meditation. Could you elaborate on that?
Hisbodidut is a meditation. It’s a form of prayer, a conversation with God. You’re talking to God about a person’s life – what he’s going through, what he wants, his desires. And basically, it’s more of a therapy with God. When a person reaches out to God and only relies on Him, then he has a much better chance of handling that problem in a more relaxed state.
What is the connection between spirituality and happiness?
Spirituality brings one inner happiness. The person is not going to have to pursue outer happiness through stimuli and other things. When you are innerly happy, a person doesn’t need the external.
How do you explain anger?
When someone is having an anger problem, this person is basically saying he doesn’t like the way the world has gone. He wants to take control of the world. The problem is the ego. The ego is the cause of destruction. The only way to rectify any kind of problem is through humility. With anger, we have to learn self-control. Spirituality will lead you to have self-control.
Could you talk about the problems caused by immediate gratification?
Studies show that all problems come from a person not having self-control. The marshmallow experiment was a study they did with children. They offered them one marshmallow now, or two marshmallows in 20 minutes. And they tracked these students down and they basically showed that those people who waited those extra 20 minutes were more successful in all areas of their life. There are things in life you have to wait for. Today’s generation wants everything right now. There’s no depth to this generation. I’m trying to bring it out in a very practical sense, so they can change their thinking.
How do we cultivate delayed gratification, which seems so antithetical to our nature?
That is why I bring the Kabbalah concept of the vessel. There is a certain amount of light a vessel can hold. If there is too much light for a specific vessel, the vessel will break. If the vessel breaks, what happens? The person is going to fail. There has to be patience and there has to be the concept of waiting. There has to be purification, in order to purify those vessels and to make them bigger. It’s more about being involved in the process and not the result.
What’s the importance of breathing?
The breathing allows you to have patience. In order to meet the goal that you want, you have to have patience.
Can you explain the connection between faith and patience?
There will be times when you are able to press go and there will be times when you have to wait and be patient. If you don’t have emunah, or faith, it’s going to be very hard, because our life is usually is based on a promise that comes down to expectations. If we only focus on our expectations and our expectations don’t get met, we’re going to end up depressed. The key is changing expectation to appreciation – appreciation for what we have now.
How does spirituality help you live in the present?
Being in an abundance mindset is about being abundant today. This generation is driven. They’re always pursuing. They’re showing God, “I’m not happy with what I have. If I have this, then I’ll be happy.”
Life becomes a big rat race. You don’t even know you’re running. Spirituality will calm you down and make you become a giver. It will let you focus on other things in your life. You will be content in the moment. You will not be needing something all the time to be happy.
Is the rat race a problem of materialism?
It’s society. In today’s society, your self-worth is based on your success. If you’re not successful, there’s no self-worth. If there’s no self-worth, that’s when addictions comes into play. If you don’t love yourself, you’ll lose yourself.
Could you talk about the pitfalls of entertainment?
Our soul thrives when we are growing. If we’re spending 99 per cent of the day entertaining and only one per cent of the day empowering ourselves, overall that leads to bad results. You have to make sure there’s a balance between entertaining and self-empowerment. Otherwise, at the end of the day, you’re going to avoid life, instead of approaching life. That’s going to lead to other problems.
What is the connection between self-discipline and self-esteem?
If I value myself, I’ll put in the effort. If I run 10 miles up a hill, I’m not going go and splurge on cheesecake, because I value the work I put into myself. If I don’t exercise and I don’t take care of myself, then I’m worthless anyways.
A person cannot have self-esteem without self-control. If a person, for example, is extremely overweight because he can’t control himself, he overeats. His brain tells him, “You has no control of your life, you’re worthless.” He’s never going take new opportunities in his life because he’s going to feel he has no self-control. He’s going to create a story, blame his parents, blame other people. He’s going to be in a state of constricted consciousness, which is a story about a person’s life. He’s going to say, “This is who I am. I can’t change.” The problem with stories is that they protect you, but they also imprison you. You can’t grow if you’re in a story.
How do you get out of the story?
You have to break your beliefs. All breakthroughs happen with new beliefs. How do you create new beliefs? You need new information. New information gives you new thinking.
What is the purpose of humility?
Someone who hasn’t achieved much needs momentum by creating small wins and having goals that are practical. You can think big, but you have to act small. For example, I want to lose 50 pounds. I don’t have the vessel to lose 50 pounds. It’s not going to happen. So what happens? The vessel breaks and you fail. So then the person is going to say, “I’m a failure.” What the person really needs to do is say, “I can’t lose 50 pounds, but let me try to lose two pounds.” From that, we can create momentum.
The way we can get to that practical goal is through humility. You shot too big. You’re lowering the vessel to a more practical goal.
When we have humility, we accept failure as part of the process. Either you win or you learn. You’re basically building resilience. You’ll realize that the happiest people in life are those who get up quickly.
Is this your experience?
I fail fast and often, but I get the lesson right away. I’m not interested in the results right away. I’m interested in the process.
This interview has been edited and condensed for style and clarity.